Richland County Auditor Pat Dropsey (right) discusses the county budget in 2019 during a meeting of local elected officials, a session conducted by commissioners Darrell Banks (left) and Tony Vero (center) and then-Commissioner Marilyn John. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- Pat Dropsey said his grandparents fled Europe in search of freedom, to get away from socialism.

That is the primary reason Dropsey, the longtime Richland County auditor, said on Monday he is leaving the Democratic Party.

"I have become somewhat disappointed in the national (Democratic) party in particular, and the state party somewhat, over the last two years in that they have embraced candidates that publicly espouse socialism," Dropsey said. "I have no desire to become involved in socialism.

"My grandparents left Europe for freedom and to be able to raise their families as they saw fit, without government sticking its nose into it. That's what socialism is all about."

Dropsey filed paperwork with the county Board of Elections on Thursday, becoming the second locally elected Democrat recently switching parties to join Republicans.

Mansfield City Councilman Jason Lawrence filed similar paperwork on Dec. 23.

Dropsey, who has worked in the county auditor's office for almost 30 years and has been the auditor for almost 20, said it's a move he has pondered since 2018.

"When a significant number of new candidates and current elected officials stated publicly they were Democratic socialists or they believed in some aspects of socialism, that's when I really started to begin consider changing," Dropsey said. "Socialism is a failed system. It has failed in every country in which it has been tried.

"I don't believe the government has the right to tell me what to do, period. This country was founded on freedom. Are we perfect? No. But the government can't even do (correctly) what they are supposed to do."

Dropsey, who was unopposed for re-election in 2014 and 2018, said he also became concerned in summer 2020 when social justice protests in various cities across the country, including Columbus, turned violent.

He criticized federal and state Democratic leaders who failed to condemn the violence.

"There is no justification for violence. Our country was based on the ballot. If you disagree with something, you change it by voting. We don't destroy private property, federal property, any property whatsoever," Dropsey said. "If someone wants to criticize me for what happened last week (when pro-Trump supporters assaulted the U.S. Capitol), there were numerous Republican federal and state officials who came out against that violence. It was terrible.

"There is just no place for violence when we have political disagreements."

The auditor, whose office has received the Ohio Auditor of State Award with Distinction for "excellence in financial reporting related" to the county's comprehensive annual financial report, three times since 2014, said he had no issues with local Democrats.

"They are good people," he said. "I don't expect local party leaders or members to publicly stand for or against socialism. It's the federal and state party that leads. And the fact they didn't criticize it, but instead embraced it, is the biggest issue I have.

"There is no room for socialism."

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"